Buy now! - Learn more about Abaarso's extraordinary story in Abaarso Founder, Jonathan Starr's, new book "It Takes A School"

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Our Team

Abaarso’s success would not be possible without the support of a diverse and talented group of faculty and board members, both in Somaliland and the U.S., who are all incredibly dedicated to the success of the school and the future opportunities of its students.

Executive Staff
Somaliland Board of Directors

Mr. Ahmed Jambir Suldan, Board Chair
Former Interior Minister, Somaliland Ministry of the Interior

Mr. Saeed Ahmed Mohamoud, Board Vice Chair
Independent Consultant

Mr. James Linville, Board Secretary
Headmaster, Abaarso School of Science and Technology

Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Awale
Chairman, Candlelight for Environment, Education, and Health

Mr. Abdi Hassan Duale
Executive Officer, National Professions Commission

Mr. Abdulkader Hashi Elmi
CEO, Maansoor Hotel

Mr. Omer Jama Farah
Manager, Taakulo Somaliland Community

Ms. Amal Ahmed Misan
Presidential Advisor on Women’s Affairs, Somaliland Presidential Office

Sh Mohamed Mohamoud, Religious Scholar

Dr. Jinaw Mohamed Qaalib
Medical Doctor and Lecturer, Global Polyclinic, University of Hargeisa, and Frantz Fanon University

U.S. Advisory Board Members

Jonathan Starr
Founder and Headmaster Emeritus

Anand Desai
Board Chair

Mohammed Ali
Senior Vice President, Hartford Investment Management Company

Gaurav Bhandari
Managing Partner, Long Arc Capital

Andra Ehrenkranz
Independent Education/Marketing Professional

John Ehrenkranz
Chief Investment Officer, Ehrenkranz Partners LP

Mitch Golden
Portfolio Manager, Greenlight Masters

Mustafa A. Jama
Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management

Steve Kuhn
Co-founder, ASK Charitable Foundation

Adeel Qalbani
Managing Partner, Perry Creek Capital

Michael Pollack
Clinical Assistant Professor of Business & Society, NYU Stern School of Business

Bradley Francis
Portfolio Manager, Pharo Management LLC

Abaarso Staff
Jonathan Starr
Founder | Headmaster Emeritus

Since 2008, Jonathan has been Managing Director, Headmaster, and Founder of Abaarso School. From 2004 – 2008, Jonathan founded and led Flagg Street Capital, a private investment firm that managed $170 million of assets. Prior to Flagg Street, he worked as an Analyst at SAB Capital and at Blavin and Company. Jonathan’s career started as a Research Associate within the Taxable Bond Division at Fidelity Investments. In addition to his full-time responsibilities, Jonathan sat on the Board of Directors of Pomeroy IT Solutions, a publicly traded IT company generating $500 million of annual sales. Jonathan’s board responsibilities included acting as a member of the Audit Committee, the Advisory Committee, and the Special Committee (strategic alternatives) of Pomeroy. Jonathan graduated from Emory University, with a B.A. Summa Cum Laude in Economics and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World’s #1 Failed State
by Jonathan Starr

A story of David and Goliath proportions, how an American hedge fund manager created a unique school in Somaliland whose students, against all odds, have come to achieve success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.


Nora Harless

Originally from Nashville, TN, Nora graduated with honors from New York University (NYU) in 2016. Having studied Spanish language, she conducted research abroad in Havana, Cuba and in Quito, Ecuador, focusing on development and Spanish translation. After graduation, she worked at Barwaaqo’s partner organization, Abaarso School, in Somaliland, teaching pre-algebra. Prior to returning to East Africa, she worked again in South America, completing a fellowship year with Princeton in Latin America as the external relations coordinator for the Carmen Pampa Fund in Nor Yungas, Bolivia. She will be overseeing finances for Barwaaqo University, and aiding in Abaarso School’s alumni operations. 

Trudy Hall

Originally from upstate New York State, Trudy has spent her professional career as an administrator in the world of independent education, moving around the regions of the US as she did so. As head of two boarding schools , (Emma Willard School and Miss Hall’s School), and a senior administrator at four others, (Culver Academies, Hutchison School, Stoneleigh-Burnham, Forest Ridge), she has focused her professional energy on programs that foster leadership and develop student voice and personal passions. Former Head of School at Emma Willard School for 17 years, Trudy also served 14 years on the board of the National Coalition of Girls Schools, and as President for 4 of those years, during which she had the opportunity to travel extensively internationally, always on the lookout for excellent schools. Firmly committed to the use of design thinking practices, Trudy also served as the President of the Board for Leadership and Design, a non-profit that designs leadership experience for those creating the future of education. Formally educated at St. Lawrence University, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Duke University, Trudy, is a ferociously curious peripatetic who, for the moment, when not in Somaliland, hails from Seattle, Washington.

James Greisler
Assistant Headmaster | Director of Academics

Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, James graduated from Hamilton College in 2010 with a BA in Theatre. Wishing to see the world, James spent the following years teaching English in South Korea and in the Republic of Georgia. From 2013-2014 James spent two years teaching English in Malaysia under the Fulbright Program. There he led drama activities, including adaptations of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Dr. Seuss stories, as well as over 20 day-long English camps and a student art exhibition. James also did outreach work with his Orang Asli (native) students and their community, resulting in a meeting between the students and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. An avid reader, James enjoys hiking, folk dances, and playing his trumpet and sapeh.

Jin Sasaki
Director of Procurement | Faculty of STEM

Jin has lived in East Africa for the majority of his life, living in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya. Jin graduated from Cornell University with a BS in International Agriculture and Rural Development. As a student he was involved in rugby and volunteered in the orientation program. He is an avid traveller and coffee enthusiast.

Saeed Mohamud
Director of Operations

Saeed graduated in 2015 from Abaarso School of Science and Technology. He then attended EARTH University in Costa Rica where he earned bachelors degree in Agricultural Science. As he completed his education, he came back to Somaliland and now he is the operations Manager at Abaarso School.

Jennifer Ayala
Director of Abaarso Prep | Faculty of Humanities

Born and raised in Southern California, Jennifer graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2012 with a BA in Philosophy. After graduation she volunteered in the Republic of Georgia for a year, teaching English in a rural mountain village. Jennifer then returned to California and worked in public libraries, developing children’s’ literacy initiatives and after-school family programs. After a couple years in the US Jennifer joined the Peace Corps, where she served in China from 2016-2018 as an English teacher in a university. In her free time she enjoys standup comedy, weight lifting, and hiking.

Hannah Heselton
Director of Student Life | Faculty of STEM

Originally from a small town in New Hampshire, Hannah graduated from Tufts University where she received a BA in Community Health and Environmental Studies. During her time at Tufts, she developed an interest in education and spent two years working with Jumpstart in a preschool in Boston’s Chinatown while working on her degree. She also became interested in global health and literacy and worked in the post-conflict region of northern Uganda at a vocational school for young mothers. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, and playing with her dogs.

Molli Goetz
Post-Abaarso Advisor | Faculty of Humanities

Molli is originally from Connecticut and graduated from Harvard University, where she studied History and Arabic and wrote a senior thesis about the process of state-building in Oman. While at Harvard, she worked as a case manager and program director at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and as an English teacher in immigrant communities around Boston. She has also worked as an English teacher and office manager for an NGO in Athens, Greece that provides services to refugees living in Athens and has studied Arabic in Muscat, Oman and Amman, Jordan. She is very excited to be working with the students and staff at the Abaarso School.

Andrew Cazares
Enrollment Manager | Faculty of STEM

Andrew is from Austin, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Russian and minors in Math and Physics. During his time in college, he was actively involved in the model United Nations program. He also lived in Russia during his senior year of high school and studied Russian at Moscow State University during college. Andrew is a lifelong learner and is looking forward to teaching at Abaarso. In his free time, Andrew enjoys studying languages, reading, traveling, and cooking.

Connor Method
Director of Academic Technology & Media | Faculty of STEM

Connor Method is a 2016 graduate of Marquette University, with degrees in Finance & Economics, minoring in Psychology. Connor has had a range of teaching experiences, from english training centers in China, to non-profits in the U.S., as well as online. Connor is currently enrolled in a part-time online Master’s in Education with Purdue University, specializing in Learning, Design, and Technology. He is loves film, and has a passion for creating unique learning experiences for others.

Farhan Elmi
Director of STEM Competencies | Faculty of STEM

Farhan is an Abaarso alumnus. After graduating from Abaarso,  he went to Jacobs University Bremen, Germany, where he pursued a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering & management with a minor in international business administration.  He graduated from Jacobs in this year. Farhan enjoys teaching and supporting students; hence, he became intercultural trainer in his second year at university where he taught incoming students intercultural competence to help them succeed in a diverse university. During his time at Jacobs he was also a peer supporter where he provided counseling assistance to undergraduate students as part of J-Peers Program of Jacobs University

Nyle Pierre
Leadership Coordinator | Faculty of Humanities

Nyle Pierre graduated in 2017 from CUNY Queens College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. He then went on to teach ESL at a Manhattan language school for 2 years after receiving his TEFL Certification. He is excited to join Abaarso for the first time and learn about the lives of the students and faculty, adding to his global perspective. He has a passion for people and culture, and in his free time enjoys any activity relating to football (soccer) and engaging in stimulating discussions.

Ismael Warsame
Faculty of Islamic Studies

Ismael was born and raised in Erigabo, Somaliland. He is an alumni of Abaarso, attending the school from 2011-2015. After high school, he started learning Islamic Studies. He attended four years at an Islamic Institute before high school and was connected to them after graduating. He enjoys basketball during his free time and is happy to be back at Abaarso.

Arkadiusz “Arek” Wilczynski
Faculty of Computer Science

Arkadiusz graduated from Poznan University of Technology in 2013 with a Master of Science in Computer Science. During his studies he spent a semester at Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal and completed the IAESTE internship in Istanbul, Turkey. Shortly after graduation he fulfilled his dream of traveling between Beijing, China and Bali, Indonesia without taking a plane. The following year he returned to China to work as a middle school teacher. When not traveling, Arek works as a freelance programmer developing web applications.

Adebola Akinmulewo
Director of Academic Enrichment | Faculty of STEM

Adebola grew up in Delta state, Nigeria. She got her BSc and MSc degrees from Covenant University where she majored in Microbiology. She’s passionate about social development and science research. She participated in the National Model United Nations in 2018 and got an outstanding delegation award. She’s passionate about learning and enjoys reading, travelling and playing outdoor games. She’s excited to work here at Abaarso because it takes her close to fulfilling her dream in making an impact on the young generation through education.

Oyindamola Olajide
House Parent | Faculty of Humanities

Oyinda is a graduate of Covenant University located in Ota, Nigeria with a Bachelors degree in Microbiology. She gained teaching experience while serving her country in the National Youth Corp. This act of service ignited her passion in teaching and pushed her to give back to society in a meaningful way. In her free time she loves to read and listen to music.

Mohamed Ismacil
Faculty of Humanities

Mohamed is an Abaarso alumnus, graduating with the class of 2017. After graduation, he spent the academic year of 2017-18 at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia through the ASSIST program. Mohamed came back last year to help the school with finance and other managing roles. This year, he is teaching 7th, 8th and 9th grade Somali Language. Mohamed enjoys eating, writing, and playing basketball and volleyball with the students.

Mandlenkosi Dube
Director of Humanities | Faculty of Humanities

Mandlenkosi (Mandla) is from Zimbabwe. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Ethics, Politics and Economics from Yale University. At Abaarso, Mandla looks forward to working with students and staff to set students on a path to achieving their educational dreams. In the near future, he intends to pursue a PhD in Public Policy with a specific focus on public policy in sub-Saharan African countries. A classic nerd, Mandla spends his spare time reading science fiction and watching Japanese Anime.

Thomas Bahlo
Faculty of Humanities

Thomas grew up in California, and studied International Relations and German at San Francisco State University. He was fortunate to study abroad twice during university, and after graduating departed from the US again to live in Latin America and Australia. His curiosity led him towards a fascination with education, learning, and language. Since graduating, he has acquired diverse teaching experience working with children, adolescents, and adults. Thomas is passionate about self-improvement, inquiry, and people.

Jenny Lundt
Faculty of Humanities

Jenny Lundt graduated from Colgate University in May 2019 with a double degree in Peace & Conflict Studies and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. Working towards an equitable, peaceful world is her mission and she sees education, especially for girls, as the necessary first step to achieve this. She has lived and worked in Brazil, Jordan, Morocco, Thailand, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste previously. She also studied abroad in Nepal where she wrote her thesis on radio and community building for nation-building. Most recently, she was an English Teaching Assistant in Malaysian Borneo with the Fulbright Program. As Colgate’s Student Body President, she gained experience with project implementation and capacity-building for future leaders. She loves sunsets, long walks, and audiobooks.

Kevin Cranney
Faculty of Humanities

Kevin is from a small town near Philadelphia and studied History at Providence College. He is also passionate about science and worked for five years as an environmental educator at a nature center near his hometown in Pennsylvania in between stints working at local, organic vegetable farms. Most recently, Kevin taught at a secondary school in Kedah, Malaysia on a Fulbright grant. He loves hiking and camping, reading, and meeting new people.

Pete Birmingham
Faculty of STEM and Humanities

Pete joined the team at Abaarso in the fall of 2020, eager to support capacity-building and student-centered culture at the school. He brings ten years of diverse experience in education and community programming for youth in challenging situations. In addition to earning a Masters in International Development from the University of Denver, Pete has worked to help start an academy in South Korea, support English and health programs with the Peace Corps in Ukraine, advocate for children in Costa Rica, and contribute to STEM programs in the US. An avid traveler, the opportunity to participate in sustainable development in East Africa proved irresistible, and he’s excited to help empower Abaarso students through quality, character-building education!

Raha Maalin
Faculty of Humanities

Raha Maalin is a Massachusetts native with a passion for educational access. Raha graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, a liberal arts college in Worcester, MA, where she was a History major. During her undergraduate career, she served as a student leader. Upon graduation, she worked for a New York City-based leadership and development non-profit managing their internship program, so students could obtain meaningful and professional opportunities. At Abaarso, Raha hopes to support students’ academic, personal, and professional interests.

Vidas Varma
Faculty of STEM

Vidas grew up in the tiny island state of Singapore. He graduated with a degree in Finance from Murdoch University in 2017. Coming from a country just over 700 square kilometres, Vidas has had a great impetus to travel out of home to see more. From backpacking across the mountains of Japan and New Zealand, training in the valleys of Germany and teaching English in a small town in China, he appreciates the opportunities to experience the differences between his culture and others. He accepts tea or coffee in exchange for friendship. Sugar is not needed as he is sweet enough.

Josh Barker
Faculty of Humanities

Joshua grew up on a farm in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia. After graduated from Guilford College with a degree in English, he caught the teaching bug while working with an NGO in San Andrés Semetabaj, a village in the rural highlands of Guatemala. After Guatemala, Josh took a position as a preschool and kindergarten homeroom teacher in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he stayed for three-and-a-half years. In his free time, Josh enjoys playing his guitar, taking archaic film photos, exploring new exciting places, playing football (soccer), and reading and writing poetry.

Jacob Kohlhoff
Faculty of STEM

Jacob is from the Charlotte area and graduated with a BS in Environmental Biology from Georgetown University in 2019. During his time at Georgetown, he was a member of the D1 Men’s Swimming and Diving Team. After graduation, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Malawi, Africa as an Environmental and Food Security Educator. Jacob enjoys the environment, sports, and the arts. He is excited about becoming a teacher at Abaarso and can’t wait to meet the students.

Sean Howard
Faculty of STEM & Humanities

Sean is from New York and graduated from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a minor in Legal Studies. He joined the Peace Corps and served in Northern Province, Zambia, working in the sector of rural education development. While in Zambia, Sean was a valued faculty member at Kafula Primary School, with an emphasis on literacy and student empowerment. Sean is a lifetime Eagle Scout who enjoys reading, traveling and golf.

Chad Olson
Faculty of Humanities

Chad was born and grew up in rural Minnesota. He attended North Dakota State University where he studied Anthropology. He has worked as a park ranger in Utah and as a shelter advocate at a homeless shelter. For two years he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia where he taught English. In his free time, he likes to read books, study languages, and go hiking.

Mohamed Abdilaahi Mohamed Yusuf
Faculty of STEM | House Parent

Mohamed graduated from United States International University in December 2018 with BSc in accounting and concentrating in finance. He spent the second year of his university studies in the Asian Studies Program at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. Right after graduation, he returned to Hargeisa and started his first job working for Coca-Cola Somaliland Beverages Industries in the marketing department. A few months before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, Mohamed was amongst the 150 men selected out of 1,000 educated young men from the Maroodi Jeex region area to attend a military service program that was held at Dararwayne military training camp. Mohamed was amongst the first batch that graduated from Abaarso School back in 2013 and he is excited to come back to teach Physics and take the Boys’ House Parent role.

Christopher Samp
Faculty of Humanities

Christopher Samp was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. In 2012 he graduated from Illinois State University with a major in Sociology and a minor in Peace Studies. In 2017 he graduated from Aurora University with a master’s degree in social work. Chris has worked with many different populations in a variety of roles, both domestically and overseas. Domestically, he has worked as a special education teaching assistant and as an assistant counselor for refugees. Internationally, Chris has volunteered in Uganda and Nepal. His previous job was teaching English in Ethiopia through the Peace Corps. In terms of international work, he would like to help put an end to the use of children in combat. Domestically, he would like to continue counseling refugees in the U.S. For now, Chris is eager to assist Abaarso staff and students with their own goals. Chris enjoys running, lifting, hiking, reading and journaling.

Abdikarim Hussein
Faculty of STEM & Humanities

Abdikarim hails from Hargeisa, and he graduated from Swarthmore College in 2020. He holds a major in Economics and a minor in Philosophy. Before departing for the US, Abdikarim attended Abaarso School for three years. Abdikarim currently teaches math courses in both Upper School and Prep. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, and binge-watching crime shows.